The Expository Files

The Course of This World

Ephesians 2:1-3

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." (Ephesians 2:1-3).

The picture of these Christians that the Holy Spirit paints with the pen of the apostle Paul is quite negative. But of course, that is because that it is a picture of what they were before they became Christians. A part of the description is that they "walked according to the course of this world."

Now, is that so bad? To think, speak and act "according to the course of this world"?

Well, yes, it is bad. It is the popular way to be. It is to say those things which the world says. It is to behave according to the world's standards and not according to God's. It is to ridicule the way of righteousness. It is to suffer horrendous consequences, both in this life and the life to come.

If we walk according to the course of this world, we lose all perspective on eternity. We turn away from our purpose as creatures of God bearing His own image as His offspring. We live for today. And we take away our very foundational basis for being moral or compassionate or loving.

It is not that those who "walk according to the course of this world" cannot be compassionate or moral, it is just that they have no reason to be so other than their own determination based on whatever criteria they deem important.

But not everyone who walks "according to the course of this world" is going to come to the conclusion that there is a place for compassion or morality. Based on their own set of criteria, they will determine they want to reject moral restraint. They will sometimes see little cause to be compassionate. Sometimes, they will determine that cheating and lying and promiscuity are appropriate. Sometimes it will go much further than that to stealing and rape and murder. Sometimes they will take guns to public places and kill people. Sometimes, they will succeed in becoming powerful heads of state and inflict suffering on huge numbers of people. Sometimes, that is precisely where "the course of this world" leads.

A Course of Darkness
"This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." (Ephesians 4:17-19).

Again, the descriptions of this course given in this passage are very negative. They include "being darkened in their understanding." Christians are urged in this context to make a clear and clean break with this sordid past (Ephesians 4:20-24).

The way to do away with darkness is to turn on the light. This is what they call a "no-brainer." David said, "The unfolding of Your word gives light." and "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pathway." (Psalm 119:130, 105). Today, Christians are said to have been "delivered from the domain of darkness" and transferred into Jesus' "kingdom of light." (Colossians 1:13).

Be warned; Satan will do everything he can to keep people in the dark (2 Corinthians 4:3,4). He'll try to convince those walking in the light to keep quiet about it. He will not mind if we sing "Send the Light" as long as we do not really send it, or "Tell Me The Old, Old Story" as long as we do not tell it. Let the light shine (Matthew 5:14-16).

A Course of Human Wisdom
"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind..." (Ephesians 2:3).

Human wisdom dictates that all restraint is bad. The more freedom and less inhibitions one has, the happier he is. The world rejoices that there are so few restraints on television contents anymore, and look forward to the day when there are none. We can be happier now, that four letter words, violence and immorality are so commonplace. Are we happy yet?

But while we are freeing ourselves of restraints, we are also freeing ourselves of hope, peace and eternal victory. Our faith must rest in the power of God rather than the wisdom of man (1 Corinthians 2:5). It is the gospel that brings salvation and without it we perish (Romans 1:16). Knocking down our moral code is not making us happier.

The Course of Disobedience
"... of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. " (Ephesians 2:2).

These people who are described as the "sons of disobedience" are also said to be "dead" in their "trespasses and sins." (2:1). God does not desire for any to perish, but does allow us to choose the course our lives will take, even if we choose a course that leads to our being eternally lost. But God, through His grace, has provided an alternative.

But the alternative involves the disobedient becoming obedient to God. Let no one say otherwise. Salvation involves obeying God. Concerning Jesus, the Scripture says, "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation," (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus Himself said that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one must "obey" the will of His Father (Matthew 7:21).

The Course of Conformity
Finally, going back to our original phrase, "the course of this world" suggest conformity. The easiest thing in the world to do is to conform to it. But the disciple is different from the world where it counts. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2).

It is the disciple of Christ who is the true non conformist today. Jesus calls us unto a life that leaves the broad way with its throngs behind and walks a narrow way with a few other travelers. But, the narrow way leads to life (Matthew 7:13,14). The course of this world will not get you there, but Jesus will.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 8.3; March 2001